Years ago I had the privilege of watching Rudy Hartono play. He is considered the greatest badminton player of all time, winning the All- England Championship eight times.
This was then the de facto World Championship, as a formal world Championship was still to be instituted. And when the World Championship was instituted, he won it promptly in 1980.
When he was over with his match, almost toying with his opponent, I asked his manager what was Hartono’s motivation. “Is it to win every match he plays”, I asked. The manager smiled, “No. Winning every match one plays cannot be the right motivation. It is playing one’s best, and that is the motivation for Hartono, and indeed for all our players".
“But he is winning everything he plays”, I said somewhat startled. The manager smiled again and said, “Consider this. Young, fitter and even better players may come in the future and they might beat the champion. In that case, if winning all the matches were the motivation, a defeat would shake one’s confidence badly and lead to self-doubts. The right motivation for all of us should be “playing to the best of ones ability. It may be a game, your life or whatever one does.”
I reflect upon these words quite often. They carry the message of the Gita, which says one’s duty is confined to working wholeheartedly, without thinking of success as the fruit of one’s labour.
Perhaps Kipling understood the message best of all. In his poem ‘If’, he describes ‘Triumph’ and ‘Disaster’ as ‘Impostors’ and says that they be treated as the same in the course of one’s march of duty. The moral lesson that one gets is that success and failures are a part of one’s life. And in fact, one can say they are the two sides of the same coin. And, as someone pointed out, even gods like Ram had to go through various kinds of trials and tribulations that we normal human beings have to go through.